Unions make point over low turnout

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The Independent Online
A LOW election turnout has destroyed Tony Blair's argument about high participation before unions are granted recognition, senior union leaders declared yesterday.

Less than 25 per cent of Londoners voted for a mayor and a new council for London, but the Prime Minister is insisting on a 40 per cent "yes" vote at a workplace before collective bargaining is backed by law. John Monks, TUC leader, joined John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB general union, yesterday in attempting to expose "double standards".

Mr Edmonds pointed out that many ministers believed that the London poll was representative of the legitimate will of the people, and therefore they should accept similar rules for union rights.

The GMB leader contended that the low turnout in the polls had "killed off" any contention that 40 per cent of a workforce would have to back union recognition rather than a simple majority of those voting.

Some union sources believed that predictions of a low turnout had persuaded Downing Street to postpone discussion of the White Paper until next week.

John Monks said on Radio 4: "Less than a quarter of Londoners voted for the introduction of the mayor, but that's going to be enough for the Government. I'm hoping that it will take the same view as far as unions are concerned."

In private the unions have conceded the principle by suggesting a 30 per cent "yes" vote instead of 40 per cent. The Confederation of British Industry originally ventured that the proportion should be 50 per cent, but has reluctantly accepted the compromise suggested by Downing Street. But union leaders refused to compromise on other issues in the "fairness at work" White Paper.